Is There Such a Thing as Good Estrangement? (NSQ Ep. 19)
Also: how do you know if you have a “bad personality”?
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Relevant Research & References
Question #1: Should you cut off a toxic family member?
- Stephen cites this 2014 survey on the prevalence of estrangement, commissioned by the UK charity Stand Alone.
- Stephen compares an ideal form of family estrangement to “conscious uncoupling,” an approach to divorce which actress and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow famously popularized in 2014.
- Angela references the moral teachings of Chinese philosopher and politician Confucius. You can read the complete English translations of the Analects of Confucius here.
- Stephen jokes, “Cain plainly did not subscribe to Confucian theology” — a reference to the story of Cain killing his brother Abel in the Book of Genesis.
- Angela discusses the work of her colleague Sara Jaffee. The specific study that she mentions is a 2003 publication from Child Development “Life with (Or without) Father: The Benefits of Living with Two Biological Parents Depend on the Father’s Antisocial Behavior.”
- Angela mentions the 2013 Protection of the Rights and Interests of Elderly People law, which requires adult children in China to visit their parents “often.”
- Stephen references a famous 1985 study by economists B. Douglas Bernheim, Andrei Shleifer, and Larry Summers which looked at familial loyalty in one’s later years.
- Stephen and Angela discuss Stephen’s 2015 interview with former NFL player Phillip Buchanon. You can listen to the full episode, “Should Kids Pay Back Their Parents for Raising Them?” (Ep. 223), in the Freakonomics Radio archives.
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Question #2: Can you improve a bad personality?
- Stephen mentions ancient Greek scholar Hippocrates’s four temperaments, which categorized personality according to various bodily humors — blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm.
- Angela breaks down the Big Five personality factors. Personality psychologist Lewis Goldberg is one of the original scholars to identify these categories. His 1990 publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is titled, “An alternative ‘description of personality’: The Big-Five factor structure.”
- Angela says that in her very first Freakonomics Radio interview with Stephen, she shared her unofficial “theory of human behavior change.” That conversation is part of the 2015 episode, “Am I Boring You?” (Ep. 225).
- Angela references the work of “father of cognitive therapy” Aaron Beck. To learn more about Beck’s approach to psychotherapy, we recommend reading The anxiety and worry workbook: The cognitive behavioral solution.